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Welsh Black Cattle

The Welsh Black is a dual-purpose breed of cattle native to Wales and is recognised as one of the oldest breeds of cattle in Britain. 

Historians have suggested that the breed dates back to the very earliest cattle herded by the first modern humans as they populated what would eventually become Europe.

These were nomadic hunter-gatherers originating on the steppes of Central Asia. Known as the province of Hispania, this Mediterranean region supplied the Roman Empire with food, olive oil, wine and metal.  Movement of cattle and other livestock were recorded after 219 BC, when the first Roman troops invaded during the Second Punic war against the Carthaginians.

There is also evidence that black cattle have inhabited the hills of Wales since pre-Roman and pre-Christian times and documented evidence they were the Ancient Britons' most prized possessions when they retreated westwards from the invading Saxons.

Certainly black cattle have been bred in Wales for well over 1,000 years and, as in Scotland and many other parts of Britain, were often used as currency. Drovers would herd the cattle for weeks to sell them at English markets, and return to Wales with large amounts of money which unfortunately made them the target of bandits and highwaymen.

But this constant threat of robbery prompted the formation of the first bank – the Bank of the Black Ox, which evolved into Lloyds Bank. This gave rise to the description of Welsh Black cattle as "the black gold from the Welsh hills".

A tremendously hardy breed, with the ability to withstand extremes of temperature and terrain, it is officially classified as a dual-purpose breed, producing both milk and beef.

Before the 1960s very few Welsh Black Cattle were exported outside the UK, but they now can be found in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Germany as well in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jamaica and Uganda.  You can find the Welsh Black listed on the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia website. Currently there are approximately 500 registered Welsh Black Cattle in Australia, mainly in Victoria.

The Welsh Black breed of the 21st century combines excellent muscular development with ease of calving and the milking ability to rear strong growing calves.

Welsh Black cattle have a history of being raised in harsh, outdoor environments and unimproved pasture. They have retained their ability to convert rough feed into weight gain and a willingness to forage makes it ideal for native pasture, and for conservation grazing.

In thier native Wales and now in Australian studs, Welsh Blacks are wintered on native grasses with no supplements and also calve there. They have developed a good constitution and freedom from disease, thus enabling drenching of young stock for example to be kept to a minimum. Cows have a long productive life of 15- 20 years. Docility of the breed makes handling relaxed despite their great size.